Johnson returns to Rocks while he’s in contract limbo

Ben Johnson
Ben Johnson

THE Rocks’ wing wizard Ben Johnson is still in limbo over his dream move to the professional game because of the wage capping system in place in League Two.

The 24-year-old has been offered a contract by Dagenham & Redbridge, but the wage capping system means the club can’t fit him into their budget - so he will be waiting anxiously over the coming weeks to see if the situation changes.

In the meantime he is fully committed to the Rocks, having played on Saturday in their Ryman League division one south league opener – a 2-1 home win over Chipstead.

After a summer of uncertainty on what the future held, the plan was to pen a deal with the Daggers and then spend three to six months on loan at conference level, with teams like Cambridge United, Luton Town, and Newport County mooted.

But those clubs had already filled their positions on the left wing and would also struggle with his wages.

Bognor bosses Jamie Howell and Darin Killpartrick, as they said they would throughout the summer, have welcomed Johnson back into the ranks at Nyewood Lane, but have warned it may not be for as long as people are suggesting.

Johnson himself said: “It’s a bit of a waiting game. After spending three weeks up there, John said he would like to sign me on a two-year contract.

“Jamie and Dabba were good enough to let me come along to play until I hear anything else.

“If I’m to be playing anywhere in the meantime my choice is Bognor because I had a good time there last year, I got on with the management.”

It’s the management duo of Jamie Howell and Darin Killpartrick who he said he owes a great deal for helping attract the attention of professional clubs.

“They understand my game and get the best out of me,” he said.

“The role I was given last year suits me perfectly.

“A lot of it is down to Dabba and Jamie for the way they give me the freedom to play.”

Johnson has done the rounds along the south coast at Worthing, two spells at the Rocks, and at Burgess Hill, and he though his chance of a professional contract may have come and gone.

“Being a full time footballer for four weeks has opened up my eyes again,” he said.

“I had a little spell with Millwall when I was 16, I had a bit of bad luck. I thought at that point I had missed out.

“It feels like a bonus to be given the chance to play at that level, I couldn’t refuse it.

“If you’re given the chance to turn pro and you don’t want it, you shouldn’t be in the game.”

Dagenham showed their interest in Johnson as far back as January, and wanted him to play in a midweek fixture, but it clashed with Rocks’ top-of-the-table match against Leatherhead so the two parties were made to wait until the summer.

Howell has set the record straight on rumours that Johnson was back for the season.

He said: “People saying he’s back for the season is way off the mark.

“At the moment we are waiting to see. In the next couple of weeks we will have a decision from Dagenham.

“It’s not an ideal situation. He wants to be playing regular football, if it’s professional then that’s what he’s got to do, if not he’s more than happy to play for Bognor.

“We would not stop anyone’s chance of playing pro football. As he proved on Saturday, it wasn’t his best game with Bognor, but he produced a great cross at the end for Luke’s goal.”

Perry Ryan has also rejoined the Rocks on a short-term basis as injury cover, while he is looking for a professional club.